The Czech Republic has criticized Monday’s vote which granted the Palestinians full membership in the United Nations' cultural agency UNESCO. Palestine was admitted as a UNESCO member by the votes of 107 member countries, while 14 countries, including the Czech Republic, voted against the step and 52 abstained from the vote. Prague, which lobbied in vain to try to get the EU to abstain from the vote, said the move was ill-timed and would bring nothing positive for the Middle East peace process. The vote is definitive and will take effect as soon as Palestinian representatives sign the UNESCO Charter.
The Czech Finance Ministry has revised downward its growth forecast for 2012, predicting a growth of 1 percent at best, down from a July estimate of 2.5. This year’s growth has been revised to 2.1 percent. The Finance Ministry said the country’s pro-export economy would be affected by slower economic growth in Europe, especially its main business partner Germany. A slowdown to 1.0 percent growth in 2012 would reduce state budget revenues by about 1.5 percent. The ministry has said next year’s budget will inevitably have to be revised and is preparing several crisis scenarios including one for recession.
The army’s Chief of Staff Vlastimil Picek has grounded the military’s CASA planes after one of the new transport aircraft suffered engine failure. The four planes will remain out of operation until the matter has been investigated. The CASA planes which the army bought without a public tender in 2009 have been dogged by problems. The 3.5 billion crown deal was criticized as non-transparent and overpriced. The planes have moreover failed to meet required norms and have not passed all army tests.
The Czech Finance Ministry has rejected a massive 500-million-dollar claim for unpaid bonds that the town of Karlovy Vary issued back in 1924. The bonds were sold in the United States and the claim was made collectively by US lawyer Ed Fagan. Individual claimants have not been identified. The spa town itself has rejected all responsibility saying it was a different legal entity at the time, and the Czech Finance Ministry which had been studying the case said the claims had been statute barred for years. The bonds matured in 1954 but were never paid. According to available information the Czechoslovak authorities negotiated with the bond holders in 1984 and the two sides signed a memorandum the contents of which have not been disclosed.
A court in Ostrava on Monday heard the testimony of another witness in the case of the tragic 2008 rail accident near Studenka when a collapsing overpass then under construction hit a crowded international express train killing eight people and injuring close to a hundred others. The train travelling from the Polish city of Krakow to Prague was carrying four hundred passengers. Several witnesses, including a construction manager who took the stand on Monday, admitted that construction problems and inadequate safety measures may have been responsible for the accident.
Škoda Auto, the Czech unit of car maker Volkswagen AG, nearly doubled its net profit in the January through September period to 471 million euro from 237 million a year earlier on soaring global sales, a Škoda spokesman said Monday. Škoda Auto's revenue rose 21% from the same period a year earlier to 7.63 billion euro. The company's sales, boosted by steadily growing demand for its cars in China, India and Russia, rose 17% from the preceding year to 664,773 cars. The company plans to continue adding two new vehicle models every year as it seeks to double global sales to at least 1.5 million units by 2018.
The Czech asylum centre for AIDS patients Dum Svetla has announced it is conducting anonymous HIV tests free of charge this week. The offer which is made at least once a year is an effort to get more people in high risk groups to undergo testing. The head of the Czech Society for AIDS patients Miroslav Hlavaty has warned that Czechs generally underestimate the risk of HIV infection and make very little effort to protect themselves. Doctors have registered 114 new cases of HIV infection this year bringing the overall number of cases registered since testing began in 1986 to 1636. 335 people have since developed full-blown AIDS, 176 have died.
Prague’s Hradčanská metro station was evacuated and closed to the public an hour early on Sunday night after the police received an anonymous warning about a planted explosive. A search revealed that the phone call had been a hoax and the station opened to the public as usual on Monday morning. Police are investigating the incident.
Police statistics for October indicate that the death toll on Czech roads has dropped to its lowest level in 20 years. Fifty-three people died on the road this month, as compared to 85 in the same time-period last year. Police attribute this to intensified road safety operations throughout the year and a heightened police presence on the roads ahead of All Souls Day when traffic tends to be particularly heavy.